Aggressive Jack Russell Behavior

by Sandi
(San Francisco, CA)

Reader Question: Why Are My Jack Russells Fighting?

I have that problem with my two jacks. You said to muzzle them but in order to do that I would have to break them apart and possibly get bitten again. I've already been bit once. My brother and my husband have all been bitten from breaking up these fights. Should we just let them fight it out? I don't know what to do. It's a scary situation.

One dog is dominant and he instigates the fights. The other is normally submissive but certain things can set him off. Once they were tracking a mole and my submissive dog Jake attacked the dominant one Jack to get to the mole. He has a greater drive to hunt. I love these boys and I've had them for 5 years, but I now have baby, Trevor who's 17 months. Could this be a jealousy thing because they were used to being the center of attention before the baby.

Vet Gives Her Input On How To Stop Aggressive Jack Russell Behavior


Your first responsibility in this type of situation is to make sure that everyone in the household remains safe. It would be a tragedy if someone were to get seriously injured. There are many causes for the type of behavior you describe, and each is treated differently. It is important to get to the bottom of why your dogs are acting in this way (e.g., fear aggression, dominance aggression, food-based aggression, etc.). If you treat them for the wrong type, you could very well make the situation worse rather than better.

A veterinarian who specializes in behavior can diagnose exactly what is going on with your dogs, come up with a behavioral modification plan, and in some circumstances even prescribe medications that can make them more receptive to training. In the meantime, do everything in your power to avoid situations that incite aggression in your dogs, even going so far as keeping one crated while the other is free to roam the house and yard, eat, play, etc. and alternating between who you let out and who you keep confined throughout the day.

Good luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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